28th Feb 2024

EU nears deal to fingerprint six year-old asylum seekers

  • Anyone above the age of six would have to comply and allow their biometric data to be taken (Photo: Alan Levine)
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The EU is set to reach a political agreement on legislation to fingerprint asylum seekers as young as six, to process facial images, and to use force if necessary.

On Tuesday (5 December), the Spanish EU presidency announced a final agreement had almost been concluded, with a possible political agreement on Thursday.

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"The file is close to a final agreement, we've discussed all main political issues," said Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Spain's interior minister speaking on behalf of the EU presidency.

"Reaching an agreement on this file would send a much needed signal of our ability to finalise the pact as a whole," said Grande-Marlaska.

Known as Eurodac, the file is part of a much larger EU-wide asylum reform that has been grinding its way through the legislative machinery for years as political pressure mounts to conclude the overhaul.

But Eurodac has also come under intense scrutiny by civil rights defenders, who say the proposed reform of the database is tantamount to mass surveillance.

Earlier this week, over 100 civil society organisations and experts demanded the wholesale rejection of the Eurodac reform and its expansion.

They say it may undermine the EU's duty to respect international asylum and migration law and standards.

Among the critical voices is the EU's own Vienna-based Fundamental Rights Agency, who says the use of physical or psychological force to obtain fingerprints would be unjustified.

Eurodac is currently used by EU states to verify if fingerprints of an asylum-seeker or an "irregular border crosser" have already been recorded elsewhere.

Although it has been around since 2003, the reforms proposed by the European Commission seeks to widen its scope, interlink records and ease police access.

The EU institutions have held seven closed door negotiations on the file, where they discussed issues dealing with direct access of law enforcement, as well as the collection of data to resettle people in countries outside the EU.

Remaining issues to be ironed out on Thursday include data-retention periods. They are also discussing whether to include Ukrainian refugees in the system.

The Eurodac reform was proposed in 2020 by the European Commission on the back of a provisional agreement already reached by the co-legislators in 2018.

That agreement also came without any vote or transparency. Its lead negotiator in the European Parliament is Jorge Buxadé, a far-right politician from Spain's Vox party.

Fresh dispute may delay EU-wide migration reforms

Negotiations on EU-wide asylum and migration reforms hit a snag, following a long simmering dispute between the European Parliament and the council, representing member states.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

Lead MEP on asylum fingerprint bill dismisses NGO appeal

NGOs are appealing for EU lawmakers to stop work on Eurodac reforms, a bill that collects the biometric data of migrants and asylum seekers. But the lead MEP on the file says the European Parliament intends to adopt it anyway.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.


Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

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